There is little reason to suspect that the dazzling opening, followed by the exhibition games and then the beginning of the regular season on April 12 ( Astros vs. the Phillies), will not sell everything in sight, for Houston is a town drowning in money. Thinking up "fun" things for business entertainment is a leading local pastime.
Still, Houston's young smart set, which goes in heavily for modern art and tasteful, small private homes walled off from the street, or life in the popular new high-rise apartments, is looking just a bit down its nose at the stadium. Some call it the doomed stadium, and most claim to have been asked to go in on the blue boxes, which all feel are too expensive for private ownership. This group boasts more football than baseball fans, and many will wait until the stadium converts for the Houston Oilers' pro football season. Knowledgeable types already think that the better seats are in the yellow and red circles closer to the field and near enough for convenience to the other private restaurant, which they can join for a small fee. This is the 550-foot-long Astrodome Club. It has a turn-of-the-century decor, pseudo-Lautrec murals (one depicts the judge studying La Goulue), a bar bearing mottos such as "All That Glitters Is Not Gold" and a partially gold floor. Here the meat-carving chef will wear over his white uniform snap-on sleeves of velvet with ermine tails.
Houston's hotels and motels are already overbooked this week. Lawrence Marcus, who will soon move to Houston from Dallas to establish an opulent larger version of his family's famed store, Neiman-Marcus, is flying down for the opening. U.S. Rubber President H. N. Barnett is due from Akron, and Hotel Corporation of America Board Chairman John Bergen is expected, along with 275 newsmen. Many who could well afford the blue tier have bought in the red seats, among them Texaco scion J. S. Cullinan II, who once owned the Houston ball club himself, and rich young Tommy Mercer of Fort Worth (he is co-owner with Lamar Hunt of the Kansas City Chiefs), who will fly down in his private plane with his wife, Jo, and their seven children. The John Becks (she is the niece of the late Jesse Jones) felt that the blue level was too high up and settled for the red. These are avid sports fans who really want to see the ball game. They also include the Europe-bound Michel Halboutys, who took two boxes back of first base which they are lending to their daughter, Mrs. Thomas E. Kelly. The Theodore Laws (she is the daughter of the founder of Humble Oil) are going strictly to see the game, say they wouldn't think of dressing formally for a ball game and don't plan to party before or after.
Socialites such as W. D. and Frances Hayden are taking members of their family to share their blue box, and Mrs. Hayden, who bought a new green suit for the opening, says, "Oh, we might go to the Warwick afterward." They will eschew the exclusive stadium caf�s because "we would rather have hot dogs, beer and peanuts—that's half the fun of going to a ball game."
Meantime, the Rev. Billy Graham has already placed his stamp of approval on the Dome. He will hold a revival there Oct. 8-17 and is featured in Dome ads as saying, "This is in truth one of the great wonders of the world." The judge is already making plans to replace the hard-won stadium grass with a synthetic in order to make the switch from baseball to football easier and quicker. The turf must be moved in some sections and the red seats turned on tracks to make a football field. Then sod has to be replaced when the baseball diamond is reformed. Although the Dome was engineered so that grass could grow, and that was its most difficult problem, the judge already considers the achievement obsolete.
The judge also has in mind a spectacular production of the opera Aida with the Houston and Dallas symphonies playing while a cast of 10,000 performs with live elephants. Hofheinz figures there are 85 enormous world organizations with no place to meet properly but his Dome. He also has an eye on 1968, when two national political conventions lured, he hopes, by less stringent Texas liquor laws (hopefully, the curfew will be extended from midnight to 2 a.m.) will come to stage their own favorite indoor sport in Houston.